Friday, June 17, 2022


No one can be told what Elvis is. You must see it for yourself. Now, to be clear, I cannot recommend Elvis to anyone. That said, I selfishly want people to see one of the most bizarre movie experiences I have ever had in a theater, if only so I can discuss what I still can't quite put into words. What I witnessed, nearly three hours worth, simply defies description. It's a mesmerizing train wreck of a film that makes psychotic choices in character, tone, and plot with disastrous results. And, yet, I couldn't look away.

The musical biopic of Elvis Pressley (Austin Butler) is the most over-the-top creation writer/director Baz Luhrmann has ever produced. Yeah, I said it. Let that sink in. It's so bonkers it blurs the line between drama and parody to such an extent that there are full scenes you could cut out of Elvis and drop into Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (or vice-versa) and they would not seem out of place (such as young Elvis' orgasmic childhood discovery of music).

Butler is the best thing about the film, with the possible exception of the set and costume design, but even his performance falls into the same pitfalls of the film's odd tone which makes it impossible to take anything seriously. He's at least more believable than Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, who until viewing the film I didn't know was part goblin. Providing the narration to the film, while walking aimlessly through an empty casino seemingly having wandered away from his hospital bed, Parker frames the partnership of the two men while recounting his role in the success of Elvis Pressley. Other characters are introduced, but only Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla is worth noting while downplaying how young she was when Elvis began courting her.

Not satisfied with the story and performances available him, Luhrmann pulls out all the stops in attempting to craft a spectacle out of what he's been given to work with. I'm not sure what exactly Elvis is, but it is... something. We get shots overlaid, camera tricks, loving closeups of its star, and even the screen broken into multiple shots at times. Sometimes these effects are interesting, sometimes they are distracting, sometimes they are laugh-out-loud funny, but often they simply another symptom of the excess of the film that underneath doesn't have anything to say about Elvis Pressley.

As the genre is want to do, we get the typical take on drug abuse, musical genius, great love, relationship troubles, a dead sibling, and complicated parental relationships all blended together. Elvis also throws in some strong musical performances, which are undercut by the hysterically exaggerated crowd reaction shots of his female fans, and so many historical moments you can't help but giggle over how the next one will get shoehorned in. Speaking of laughter. Elvis is funny. And while I'm sure some of that was intentional, much of it was not. This is a film you laugh at, not with, and I defy anyone to make it to the end without losing it at least once. I know I couldn't.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Elvis
  • IMDb: link

No comments: